Perhaps it is a logical irony that graduation speeches make more sense two decades into full fledged adulthood, than it did when one listened to it at the brink of one’s journey. As they say, the youth is wasted on the young. At the age of 21, second-hand information seemed too speculative and abstract. Anyone above 30 loomed over me like a faraway relic whose mistakes were definitely not something my younger, smarter self would ever replicate. Despite crippling youthful insecurities, there was still a smugness shining in the eyes of my nubile self, thinking that somehow, someway, I was going to circumvent the flawed roads of my elders. Of course, years and years later, when now reaching towards the beginning of the end, I realised that I had become eerily like those less enlightened middle-aged creatures I waved off pityingly before. And so now, when asked by people to share some advice with the young, I wonder – is there anything that can really pass through that buffer of superficial certainty in the minds of a 21 year old? Why not just let them embrace the entire spectrum of the human experience – Mess things up, take all the wrong paths, then reconstruct from deconstruction and voila! A real life will be lived.
Nevertheless, if there was a chance that the sagacity of those generations before could be openly listened to, embraced and lived by the young of today, I found both these graduation speeches pretty heartening, sweet and true.
The Sufi Heart with Omid Safi’s podcast ‘Expanding our Circle of Compassion’, (link here). The main messages from this, I distilled as the following…
- Life’s most meaningful lessons are usually about how we process our failures and shortcomings, than the excellence and leadership achieved.
- We are human beings, not human doings.
- Success is a communal experience – not about the individual achievement, but about how we can transform the life experience of a community.
- Choose kindness – ‘each one of us is a jackass with wings of angels tacked on’.
And this gave me a good laugh by comedian Tim Minchin. Simple, humorous but certainly peppered with a lot of basic wisdom on the ingredients of how to live well.